NLB head reassures Sberbank clients as the bank reopens

Ljubljana – After Slovenia’s largest bank, NLB, acquired the Slovenian subsidiary of Russia’s Sberbank, Sberbank’s operations in Slovenia resumed today with NLB chairman Blaž Brodnjak reassuring clients they have “no reason to worry any more, open accounts at other banks or transfer assets to other banks”. They have full access to their money again, he said.

“Sberbank is already part of the NLB group and NLB owns it. Business will be conducted absolutely normally today, cash withdrawals will be unlimited and all Sberbank clients can use NLB ATMs free of charge already,” Brodnjak said after Sberbank was closed for two days, and transactions and money withdrawals for clients limited to EUR 400 a day.

There will be no major changes for the 40,000 Sberbank clients, as they will continue to use this bank and keep their bank cards, he added.

NLB will first change the name of the previously Russian-owned bank, which was on the verge of collapse after the Russian bank’s European division was forced to suspend operations in the face of the Ukraine crisis.

Then the bank will be gradually integrated into NLB. Only after this process is concluded, which is expected to take over a year, will the bank accounts be transferred to NLB.

NLB did not disclose the purchase consideration but data available on AJPES, a portal for corporate data, shows it paid EUR 5.1 million for the outright stake via a transfer to a settlement account at the central bank.

Some operative problems may still occur today as the bank reopens but customers should not worry about that, Brodnjak said.

“Sberbank has NLB’s potential at its disposal today, and liquidity reserves of billions of euros, which exceed all deposits at Sberbank, have no burdens and can be accessed at any time,” he stressed.

Sberbank has its own liquidity reserves as well and now it can also access those of the whole NLB group, he added.

“We will give as much money as necessary, but we are convinced there will be no more rush as of today.”

Brodnjak would not reveal how much NLB paid for Sberbank beyond saying that the sum was “appropriate given the circumstances”.

The takeover has already been approved by the Competition Protection Agency, which said it had issued a decision on the early implementation of concentration while taking into account the public interest in the Republic of Slovenia.

In line with the relevant law, the agency may exceptionally issue such a decision before authorising the implementation of concentration to a certain extent or under certain conditions.

The condition is that the entity demonstrates in the proposal for acquisition that such implementation is necessary in order to maintain the value of the investment or to provide services of general interest, the agency said.

NLB signed the agreement on the takeover of the only Russian-owned bank in Slovenia with the central bank on Tuesday to preserve the financial stability in the country in the face of sanctions against Russia.

With the acquisition of Sberbank, NLB again becomes the leading Slovenian bank, controlling some 30% of the market measured by total assets to leapfrog the Hungarian OTP Bank Group.

Brodnjak said he was proud to see NLB, which needed to be rescued in the past, assume the role of a rescuer.

Sberbank currently has a dozen branches in Slovenia and NLB will soon have 71. Brodnjak said it was too early to say how the acquisition would affect this number and the number of Sberbank staff in the future.

At the moment, no changes will be made, and the management will also stay the same. However, the NLB will strive to appoint a new supervisory board as soon as possible, he said.